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Dividing Pensions Following New Jersey Divorce What Is Half Of Nothing

The ex-wife of the former police chief of a New Jersey city is seeking to protect her half of her ex-husband’s retirement pay – which was promised to her following the execution of their 2002 divorce settlement. While this may not seem surprising on its face, what is unexpected is that the ex-wife may be seeking half of nothing if her ex-husband loses his pension due to criminal convictions.

In New Jersey, state law prohibits retirement payments to a recipient who has been convicted and imprisoned for any crime involving “moral turpitude.” The ex-husband in this case was convicted last May of insurance fraud and official misconduct – convictions he plans to appeal.

The question becomes, if he loses his pension because of the criminal convictions following their divorce, is his wife still entitled to her promised half? Obviously the wife believes she is, and has put forth the argument that the divorce settlement was agreed upon well before the crimes were committed that led to her ex-husband’s conviction, which means she is still entitled to her half of the pension.

It should be noted that retirement payments in New Jersey can still be made to family members of those convicted of crimes – and thus subsequently lose their pensions – if the state Division of Pension and Benefits conclude the payments are necessary “for [the relatives] maintenance.” It remains to be seen what the court will decide in this particular instance

Pension Division Following Divorce

Just as with other assets, pensions and retirement plans are possibly subject to division following a divorce. An ex-spouse generally does have a right to a portion of the other’s pension, but that portion is often determined by complex calculations and based on how many years the couple was married. And while this case is definitely out of the ordinary, it does illustrate how complicated asset division can become following a divorce.

Source: The Record, “Former Hackensack police chief Ken Zisa’s ex-wife wants half of his pension, even if he loses right to all of it,” Karen Sudol, August 24, 2012

Our firm often handles situation is which an ex-spouse seeks their portion of their former spouse’s retirement pay. If you would like to learn more about our divorce practice, please visit our New Jersey Retirement Divorce Settlement page.